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Learning the language of humility

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A response to the Vincent Vega costume

When Vincent Vega accidentally shoots Marvin in the face, covering himself and Jules in blood and gore, the men are forced to change from their normal, gangster-esque suit and tie into some of Jimmie’s old clothes. The result is very comical:

BEFORE

Jules and Vincent gangstersAFTER

Pulp Fiction_volleyball

Normally, neither Jules nor Vincent would be caught dead wearing these clothes. How are they supposed to be intimidating and work for the infamous Marsellus Wallace when they look like they should be playing Frisbee? Once Jules and Vincent are changed into their new clothes, Jimmie and The Wolf poke fun at the men, and Jimmie describes them as “a couple of dorks” (ironically, as Jules points out, because they wear Jimmie’s clothes). Raquel, the girl from the junkyard where the men dispose of the ruined car, asks Vincent and Jules if they are about to go to a volleyball game. Although the men’s change in clothing is amusing to both us and to the characters in the movie, it represents a larger theme as well: Vincent’s and Jules’ demotion to more humble and relatable characters. I discuss this theme extensively in my essay about “The Bonnie Situation”, and through that writing process I grew to appreciate the motives behind Tarantino’s drastic change in the presentation of Vincent and Jules. This is partially the reason I chose to dress as Vincent Vega from “The Bonnie Situation” for Quentin Tarantino’s 50th birthday costume party.

The first picture of this writing shows a side-by-side view of Vincent Vega dressed in Jimmie’s UC Santa Cruz t-shirt and workout shorts compared to my attempt to mimic his attire. Vincent looks unnatural compared to the rest of the movie, but not uncomfortable. This presentation of Vincent is important because moments earlier during “The Bonnie Situation” he and Jules were forced to learn “the language of humility.” Before this scene Jules and Vincent were just a couple of badass gangsters who got away with virtually anything. When their assignment blows up in their faces (literally), the men are forced to take orders rather than give them; they are demoted to more humble, childlike characters. Vincent’s demeanor in the picture reflects this demotion; he has tasted the “language of humility” and is now able to physically represent a more normal, human persona through his clothing. Vincent’s and Jules’s change has a direct impact on the dynamic of the rest of the movie. Both Jules’ epiphany about the path of the righteous man and Vincent’s disapproval of Jules’ choice to retire can be traced back to this situation.

The impact of “The Bonnie Situation” on Pulp Fiction is another reason why I chose Vincent Vega’s UC Santa Cruz outfit. The costume is more than clothes that make you “look like a dork.” It is a physical representation of the transformations that occur in the movie. The clothing makes Jules and Vincent more relatable characters and allows us to perceive them in a different light. Even though Vincent’s experience with the language of humility is brief, for a moment we see a different person through his actions, and more notably, through his clothes.

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